About the time we finished out patient rehab we began to get notices of loved ones dying: family members from both sides, close friends and dear neighbors. Some funerals I had to skip, but some I just couldn’t bring myself to miss.
February 2012 found us packing for the funeral of my Uncle Alvin in nearby Georgetown. As I was putting the last few things in the car, I received a call from Strokeman’s sister-in-law telling me his mom was not doing well, that her one kidney was failing and that she had chosen not to pursue dialysis. So as we drove to one funeral we were making plans to try to make it to Memphis in time to say goodbye before another funeral. (This is when I began to dream of finding an old fashioned valet who would travel with us and be responsible for dressing, feeding and assisting Strokeman). I wouldn’t have minded if he could drive as well, as I was not looking forward to traveling the same road on which I had totaled my car a few months before. (You can read about that here). We took our time, spending the night after just a few hours of driving, made it there safely, and were able to say our goodbyes before Nanny passed away a few days later. (And here is my post about that).
I still miss my mother in law. I think of her often, and remember stories she told, words she would use, and housekeeping tips she gave me. I have a recipe for her sour cream pound cake written in her own handwriting, on the back of which is written, “I use Worcestershire Sauce in my roast.” I have her electric skillet, something I had no idea what to do with until she widened my cooking horizons. I think of her when I polish the wood in my home, and when I use the dishrag and a toe to mop up spills on the floor at the end of the day. I have her Bible, and when I open it, wafts of her signature perfume greet my nose. How thankful I am for the blessing of a mother-in-law who loved me and accepted me just the way I am.
That February was also the one in which my oldest son got to go visit my middle son who was stationed in Germany with the army. They snowboarded the Alps together. Meanwhile, my youngest son was boarding in Colorado. It made me happy to think of them all doing something they love to do, even if they were spread about the world.
I was able to start keeping my grand daughters some, as long as one of the kids was here to help me. I penned this little poem during that time:
golden sunlight shines through wispy hair
fighting sleep while rocking
baby watches wide-eyed
big sister shenanigans with uncle
echo laughter of delight
music and makeup
waffles and wonderment
excursions to imaginary destinations
big apron swallowing little kitchen help
February 2013: In search of a pool that would be more consistent in temperature, we joined Lifetime Fitness. The adjustment was hard on Strokeman. He doesn’t do well with change-have I mentioned that? However, the close parking access to the door, the ease of the family dressing room, and the accessibility to the pool at any time of the day we managed to get there made it a workable situation for quite a while. I also began to make use of the free classes, the treadmills, and even set up a meeting with a trainer. Often, on my Mondays off, I would make my way there for an hour or two of workout followed by a visit to the hot tub.
One of those days, I noticed that my nose was very sore around the bridge. It was swollen as if I had run into a door or something, but I thought I would have remembered if I had. I finally broke down and went to a emergent care place to find out I had cellulitis. I found myself taking antibiotics for the first time in so many years, I can’t really remember the last time. It was painful and looked awful, but was fodder for much humor, as I have a rather large nose to begin with. I am not sure how one gets cellulitis on the bridge of her nose, but I can say with certainty it is something you want to avoid if possible. Every time I would get sick, I would remember the many times people have said that your body tends to hold together in the midst of crisis only to fall apart when things slow down. I would worry, “Is this it? Am I about to start experiencing my health go down the drain? But so far, the Lord has been very gracious to me. As a general rule, I have been very healthy.
February 2014: A dear friend loses her mother, and I am reminded of those last days with my mother-in-law. A new friend is in the midst of a tug of war with an insurance company, and I am reminded of the struggle I had getting cognitive therapies covered in outpatient rehab. And I can be thankful that these difficult experiences have given me something to offer others in their struggle to survive the deep waters. I am thankful that I can pray with understanding, encourage as one who has gone before, and offer advice from my journey. I can tell them what my friend at church told me, “There is joy in the morning, and in the mourning.”
This is the last month we will be members at Lifetime Fitness. Almost as soon as we joined they began to have trouble regulating the temperature of the pool, and most days it just wasn’t warm enough to suit our needs. Due to the stroke, cold registers as shooting pain, so the water temperature is a really big deal. Our plan is to join the fitness center connected to the pool at which he received physical therapy the end of 2012. The drawback here is that they have no family dressing rooms, which will require us to come home before showering off (still wishing for that valet). Thankfully, Strokeman’s new insurance will cover this expense for him.
This month I am thankful that I continue to widen my arena of encouraging others, whether they be young mothers, new writers, newly inducted caregivers, or just fellow travelers on the road to life. I am looking for what I can do instead of whining about what I can’t.
In the midst of this I am working at remembering that always, always, my first earthly priority is this man I have committed myself to in sickness and in health. I am thankful that each day brings opportunity to grow together and love each other. While things are not the same as they were before that fateful day, there is much that is good, and even some that is better. Friends mentioned the other day that they were blessed by the interaction between me and my man. I was curious what they saw that was different – have things changed so much? From our perspective, the change is minuscule movement in an upward direction. It’s hard to see the difference when it is such a slow flow. But others who see us only periodically can notice the change. It’s good to get their insight.
Still seeing change, still learning to accept that which will stay the same. Still learning to be patient, calm, courageous, and adaptable. Still finding God’s grace to be sufficient.